My day off in Evanston did not turn out as I planned, but it was every bit as pleasant as I had hoped.
I woke knowing I didn’t have to ride, which is it’s own special feeling of relaxation. I didn’t mind riding every day, wanted to ride, in fact. But not having to deal with the logistics of where I would stay and when I would get there, what I would eat and what would the wind do and would it rain, etc., was mentally liberating. The elements could do what they wanted and it wouldn’t affect me. I could eat whenever I wanted and not have to worry about too much or too little or too late to save myself from bonking, could drink whatever and however much I wanted without making sure there was enough left to last or worrying it wasn’t enough as my body needed. As I said, not riding meant not worrying, which was liberating. In some ways, not having to think and plan may have been the real rest I got on these off days.
I ate the free hotel breakfast in the weird criminal-gallery restaurant at the hotel. Nothing special—buffet scrambled eggs, dry cereal, too many mini-pastries, lousy coffee—but good enough because someone else put it together. I returned to the room to straighten things up, sort of a precursor to packing for the next day. Then it was time for lunch.
I decided to walk rather than ride so I wouldn’t have to worry about my bike being stolen. You never know. On the way some old guy (probably my age!) stepped out and asked, How’s it going? My guard instantly went up, but the funny thing was that he reminded me of my dad. Same build, unruly bushy grey beard, similar glasses even. So I said All right, and he asked if I could help him. What do you need? We were standing next to a U-Haul truck and he told me the last box was heavy and he wondered if I could help him get it into the front seat. The box was there on a dolly, the front seat stuffed with junk already. It seemed legit, so I said sure. He pulled the truck even with the box, I opened the door, and the two of us wrestled it in there. He thanked me and said said something about my beard coming along pretty well.
I swung by the post office to drop off a card back home, then veered over to the Main Street Cafe, which had been closed the day before. Sadly, it wasn’t the diner I’d expected. The menu was on the wall and you ordered your food at the counter and then picked it up and sat at one of the tables with loose chairs. No booths, no counter stools. No pie! So I bailed on the Main Street Cafe and wandered a few blocks south to Ana’s on Main where I’d sat the day before. I remembered they had breakfast burritos and lunch-type things like sandwiches and wraps. Not to mention coffee and double chocolate muffins. It wasn’t pie, but it would do.
But Ana’s was closed. On a Tuesday. Go figure.
A quick search while I sat on a bench in some shade with the Main Street speaker music playing in the background—playing what, I don’t know. I never recognized any of the songs they played. Remember The Turtles’ “Happy Together” back in Seneca, KS? I would have loved to hear something like that just then, or maybe a little Creedence—and found another cafe nearby: For Pete’s Sake.
So I wandered down to Pete’s. The cafe occupies a large area of a huge room—I think I overheard that the building was originally a theater and this room was the lobby. It had a sort of quasi-used book store happening in one section, a sort of souvenir shop over there, some craft items for sale . . . And near the back, the coffee bar.
I approached the bar and asked the woman behind the counter for a food menu, but she had given them all out to a family of four who’d stepped in a minute ahead of me. I ordered a coffee while I waited for them to order and she said she was pulling cinnamon rolls out just then and getting ready to frost them. What could I do? Yes, please, I’ll take a raisin cinnamon roll, too.
Soon enough I had my coffee and roll and was sitting at a high table in the window setting up to write while Evanston went about its business outside. Which, I have to tell you, was not much to watch. It was a very quiet day in Old Downtown Evanston, WY. Maybe every day is. It wasn’t so quiet inside, though. They started playing music (I was going to say bad 80s music, but that’s redundant), so I popped in some earbuds and went to work.
I drank coffee and nibbled at my oven-fresh roll (which was so good I ordered one to go for the next morning), but the sun started coming in the window making the table too hot to be comfortable, so I moved to a table. All the time, the place never had more than five customers, and once the family left, it was more like two or three. I’ve never seen a coffee place so empty for such a long time in the middle of the day.
And friends—especially my writer friends—I had one of those rare afternoons where nothing bothered me and it was all about the writing. Not trying to write—that frustrating feeling when everything is set to go except your creativity—but more like I hoped my butt wouldn’t get tired of the chair before I was able to write down everything I had to get down that day. My typing speed (slow) was the only limiting factor. In a sense, that’s one huge advantage to writing a piece like this. There is very little creativity involved, no imagination necessary. You just get out of the way and let the experiences speak for themselves. Every time I’ve written a blog post on this trip I’ve written more than the entire past year. It’s a wonderful feeling.
And that was the feeling I enjoyed all afternoon, for Pete’s sake. Every once in a while I’d get up to use the bathroom or get more water. I ordered some egg burritos (with spinach, my dear Lily) and so eventually had lunch. Other than that I just listened to my space music and wrote. (For those keeping track, I was working on the long entry on the Mormon Conflict and Jessica’s grilled veggie lasagne for a post titled Simpson’s Hollow).
Blog post published, legs needing stretching, sun slowly sliding west, I reluctantly left after I don’t know how many hours there. It was a dream afternoon for a writer. For me. I bounced back up the hill to the hotel and packed for my ride the next day. The thought of another veggie burger dinner wasn’t appealing, so I skipped dinner altogether, figuring between the hotel breakfast and my raisin cinnamon roll I’d have enough calories to get me far enough down the road the next morning.
Another trip to the long-haul trucker c-store, past the creepy Hillcrest Motel (there were cars and RVs parked there that looked as if they hadn’t moved in years. The place itself was falling down. Altogether it looked like a post-apocalyptic set from The Twilight Zone) and Smokers Welcome. Watched a movie until I became sleepy, then went to bed feeling well-rested, hoping against hope that the next day’s ride—my last in Wyoming—would have as much downhill and as little headwind as possible.